Posts about Interaction design


A Public Display of Interface

Graphic Design from the Collection, May 14–October 23, 2016, SFMOMA, Floor 6

The last time I visited SFMOMA was 3 years ago, just before they closed for a major expansion of the museum. I worked on an interface that had just won an interaction design award several months prior to my visit and was on a designer’s high, daydreaming as I walked through the museum, wondering, would a modern art museum, like SFMOMA ever feature the design of something like an interface? Maybe I could be part of that history, contributing to an innovative interface or at least one little icon. 


Amused by the idea that one day there could be an exhibition detailing the mode of interface style throughout the years, I imagined the possible exhibits celebrating a functional, digital aesthetic.

Consenting Affordances: Web vs. Desktop and their Lovechild, Mobile

Wistful Analog: Skeuomorphism and the Rise of Flatland

Extravagant Limitations: Evolution of the Application Icon

Window Shopping: The Armors of Netscape, Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome


Could something like a 16x16 icon be on display in a modern art museum? Would something so tiny and digital be considered too silly and insignificant to rest under the same roof as a Rauschenberg, O'Keefe, or Warhol? With the awakening of a new SFMOMA, the interface daydreaming stopped and revealed a new reality: the recognition of an artform whose infancy rivals that of Pop Art but until now has yet to be collected, to tell a new story, found on floor 6 in the exhibit: Typeface to Interface.

Typeface to Interface.

I was reunited with those interface exhibition dreams during the opening of the overwhelmingly airy and far-too-much-to-see-in-a-day new SFMOMA. The 170,000 square feet of exhibition space turns the museum into one of the largest art museums in the United States (larger than the New York MOMA and The Getty Center in Los Angeles) making SFMOMA one of the largest museums in the world specifically focusing on modern and contemporary art. 

The exhibit takes selected work from the museum's permanent graphic design collection (spanning as far back as 1950) and joins it with examples of graphic design that has shaped the development of the interface – our modern day means of visual communication. Posters, visual communication systems, and annual reports are interwoven with a variety of technology platforms: the desktop interface, the stylus, and the mobile touchscreen – the tools and methods we’ve used to communicate via the interface. Underlying all of this are the foundations of visual design and as a result an understanding of human behavior.

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With the awakening of a new SFMOMA, the interface daydreaming stopped and revealed a new reality: the recognition of an artform whose infancy rivals that of Pop Art but until now has yet to be collected, to tell a new story, found on floor 6 in the exhibit: Typeface to Interface. 

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The Secret to Giving Away Secrets

There’s a baker in San Francisco named Josey. He owns a popular bakery and coffee shop called The Mill. Josey’s bread is really good, but it’s also not cheap. Loaves sell for $7 and up. And they sell toast — with toppings like almond butter, cream cheese or house-made jam—for $4 a slice. This is a lot of money for toast, but it’s so good that people line up down the block to buy it. It is that good. 

Josey also wrote a cookbook teaching people new to breadmaking about how to make bread. He writes in an approachable, un-intimidating style. Joseys’ basic message:making bread is easy.  

In the same way Josey sells bread, and teaches people how to make bread—we do the same thing at the design consultancy where I work, Cooper. We sell our design services to clients. And as part of those projects, we also teach clients about design and our design process.

That sounds crazy.  

Why teach people how to design (or bake bread)? If you teach everyone how to design (or bake bread), then no one will buy your design services (or your bread). Well, the opposite actually is true.

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How design consulting is becoming more about teaching design (especially to non-designers)

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Dear College Seniors: Designing Your Career Search

Millions of college seniors will graduate in 2016, and many of them are looking for jobs, hoping to line something up before they graduate. Many of them want to break into the software industry, or, more broadly and more succinctly, “tech.” Below are some words of general advice for students looking forward to their first job in just about any industry. It also includes some specific advice for looking for a first job in Design, Product Management, or Strategy.

Dear Graduating Senior,

I know that finding your first job can be frustrating, especially when you’ll hear a lot of people make it sound so easy! The reality is not very glamorous. It takes time and patience. The good news is that you're doing the right thing: asking people for advice, and staying open to new things.

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Millions of college seniors will graduate in 2016, and many of them are looking for jobs, hoping to line something up before they graduate. Many of them want to break into the software industry, or, more broadly and more succinctly, “tech.” Below are some words of general advice for students looking forward to their first job in just about any industry. It also includes some specific advice for looking for a first job in Design, Product Management, or Strategy.

Dear Graduating Senior,

I know that finding your first job can be frustrating, especially when you’ll hear a lot of people make it sound so easy! The reality is not very glamorous. It takes time and patience. The good news is that you're doing the right thing: asking people for advice, and staying open to new things.

I'll offer you some general advice, and then suggest some courses of action...

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Classification and Design

Us | Taxonomy | The World 

I’ve been interested in classification and taxonomy for a long time. Categories are everywhere, and we use them intentionally or unintentionally to understand a lot of stuff. They’re also great at slithering away when you try to pin them down. In this short series of posts, I want to explore how classification manifests in design, what its relationship is to other popular design concepts like mental models, and what kind of new lens it can provide for understanding how people understand.

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In this article, I explore how thinking about design work explicitly through a lens of classification. We think in categories and so do the tools that we use, and they make suggestions about how we should classify the world. By paying attention to this process of classification, we gain a new tool to see how people understand the world and how our products can, for better or worse, change how they see the world.

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6 before ‘16: Top Design Talks of this Year

Crowd-sourced from everyone  at Cooper, here are some of the most thought provoking and enjoyable design-related talks of 2015: 

Redefining Value: Bridging the Innovation Culture Divide by Nathan Shedroff: 

Rethinking the value that design brings to the table.


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Crowd-sourced from everyone at Cooper, here are some of the most thought provoking and enjoyable design-related talks of 2015: 

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UX vs UI

This is a topic many people have discussed before — the difference between UX and UI. We have all fallen into the trap at one point or another. I often times use the two terms interchangeably to tell my family and friends ‘what exactly it is that I do.’ Sometimes it just seems easier.

But, if you know me in a professional sense, you’ll know that I’m passionate about creating seamless holistic experiences that cross all mediums, platforms, channels etc. One of my biggest pet peeve is when a UXer is encouraged (often times naively) to be an ‘interface designer’ or to take on both roles at the same time.

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This is a topic many people have discussed before — the difference between UX and UI. We have all fallen into the trap at one point or another. I often times use the two terms interchangeably to tell my family and friends ‘what exactly it is that I do.’ 

Read More

Against Infinite Scroll

I was recently part of a Cooper Slack conversation about infinite scrolling navigation.

"I hate infinite scroll," I said. 

"👆," several people responded. 

"But why?" asked someone else.

In my worldview, infinite scroll has three major failings. I’ve listed them here from least to most important. 

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A user experience critique of infinite scrolling as a navigation pattern, based on a Slack conversation with colleagues at Cooper. 

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Easy win: Mac OS

Being an interaction designer means you’re aware of improvements that can be made in the things you use every day. This one is about copying and pasting in Mac OS. Hey, Apple! Here’s an easy win.

So you've copied a couple of files in Mac OS and you need to paste them in a folder with a lot of other files. You navigate to that folder, which you like to keep in list view, and right click to get the contextual menu where you expect to see a paste option.

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Being an interaction designer means you’re aware of improvements that can be made in the things you use every day. This one is about copying and pasting in Mac OS. Hey, Apple! Here’s an easy win.

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Don't let Personas get shelved

“What quantitative data do you have to back these personas up?” 

“We already know what our customers want. Our sales people are talking to them all the time.”

“Marketing has developed personas already. We can just use those.” 

(produces marketing segments and stereotypes rather than personas)

*crickets* Personas go on the shelf and are never heard from again.... 

 Heard something like this before?

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Personas are an amazing design tool, so how do we make sure they're being put to good use? 

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What does Pair Design look like?

If you’re trying to figure out whether Pair Design is right for you or your organization, it’s useful to have a model of what it looks like across an interaction design project. So, let me paint you a picture.

I’ve broken down our typical goal-directed design process into broad phases that should be relatively easy to map to your own. But, if this is your first time reading about Pair Design from Cooper, I recommend reading up on the distinctions between the generator and synthesizer roles I’ve written about before, as I’ll be referencing those terms

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If you’re trying to figure out whether Pair Design is right for you or your organization, it’s useful to have a model of what it looks like across an interaction design project

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